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“Appalachian Perspective”: Glacier Expert Says Earth is Warming

BOONE–Renowned scientist Dr. Lonnie Thompson says on “Appalachian Perspective” that glaciers in the tropical mountains of South America and Africa are melting faster than ever in their history and should be considered “the canaries in a coal mine” regarding global warming.

“Their retreat gives compelling evidence that the earth’s climate system is changing,” Thompson says. “When you see that change taking place in the tropics, it’s very significant because the tropics are known for their climate stability. I think we should heed that warning.”

Named a “best scientist” by TIME magazine and CNN, Thompson is the latest guest on “Appalachian Perspective,” the cable television program of Appalachian State University. He recently spoke on campus for the College of Arts and Science’s Morgan Science Lecture Series.

Thompson, a glaciologist at The Ohio State University, has been featured on National Geographic Channel, A&E, and PBS for his work drilling ice samples from glaciers in Peru, China and Tanzania. He has obtained samples dating as far back as 760,000 years. He has been called a hero for preserving the samples before the glaciers melt.

“Ice is one of the best recorders of the earth’s past,” he says. “If you go high enough, it’s cold and the snow never melts. There’s an accumulation of history–a record of temperature, and collection of dust, sulfates from volcanoes, and preserved plants and insects.”

He says his ice samples have revealed cooling and warming periods throughout the earth’s climate history, but none so dramatic as the warming observed at Peru’s Quelccaya ice cap since 1963. “We’ve been documenting this, and the rate of retreat is 40 times faster now than in the first measurement period in 1963,” he says. He attributes the recent warming to greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

As for Americans’ environmental responsibility as major consumers of fossil fuels, Thompson says, “You can argue whether Kyoto (Treaty) is the right solution or the first step, but we need to be at the table actively negotiating, constructively, in planning solutions to global warming.”

Local viewers can watch “Appalachian Perspective” on Charter Communication’s Channel 2 Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Channel 18 Sundays at 10:30 a.m., and Channel 21 weekdays at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The 30-minute program is hosted by Chancellor Frank Borkowski.

The episode “Glacial Ice: Revealing Earth’s Climate History” airs through April 18.

“Appalachian Perspective” is a production of Appalachian’s Department of Communication and University Advancement Division’s Office of Public Affairs. For more information, contact Producer Linda Coutant at (828) 262-2342 or